Guide to an Online Language Education

Guide to an Online Language Education

Looking to increase your marketability to employers by learning a second language? Perhaps you've always dreamed of a career as an interpreter but don't have the time to put forth toward a traditional education. If so, an online language education may be for you.

In today's job market, more employers are looking for foreign language speakers than ever before. Spanish, for instance, is growing in popularity among second languages valued among employers.

Latinos are the biggest minority in the country, according to Antonio Noguera, Ph.D., Spanish professor in the Department of Liberal Studies and the Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM), creating an enormous demand for bilingual speakers. “To be able to communicate successfully with the Latinos is a plus in any career,” said Noguera.

The demand for foreign language speakers is being met, in part, by online language programs.

How Online Language Programs Work

Online language programs come in several forms, from the equivalent of two years of high school language, to certificates, to accredited master's programs.

Materials needed by students vary by school, but all require an Internet connection and speakers. Some are done solely online, while others include audio tapes or CDs and books.

Each course is designed differently. The Online Spanish for Business Certificate Program at UWM has 20 chapters, and after the student completes each chapter, there is a quiz.

At Penn Foster Career College, each student is given one year to complete the program. The course consists of seven units with two exams in each unit.

No matter the type of program, they all share one common theme – convenience.

“Distance education is a convenient way to study - at home at your own pace,” said Justin Haggerty, enrollment advisor for Penn Foster. “Your instructor is just a phone call or an email away.”

Online Language Schools & Programs

Students have a myriad of options for online post-graduate language or translation certificates, as well as opportunities to earn bachelors- or master's-level degrees. Below is a sample list of online language programs:

Paying for an Online Language Education

The cost for an online language education can range from as little as $300 plus supplies for some certificate programs, to more than $20,000 per year for full-blown advanced-degree programs offered through some private colleges and universities. While paying more than $20,000 per year may seem daunting, financial aid is available and varies by school.

In addition, veterans can qualify for financial assistance for online language programs through the Veterans' Educational Assistance Program (VEAP). Veterans should check their local VA office for eligibility.


Students considering studying online need not worry that they will be any less competitive in the job market as those who have obtained a traditional education. A study done by that 86% of employers would be willing to hire someone with a degree from an online school.

Career options and opportunities for advancement for bilingual professionals are vast. Graduates of online language programs can expect to be qualified for employment as a translator, interpreter, foreign student advisor, customs officer, import specialist, international relations officer, literary translator, or as an instructor of English as a second language (ESL). Many programs prepare students for careers in international business.


If you are looking to become more competitive in the job market, or increase advancement opportunities in your current field, or perhaps you want to learn valuable language skills while traveling abroad, an online language program may be for you.

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